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Don’t Promote Best Engineers to Managers

Handling Promotion

15 July, 2021


Architect at Harness

Srinivasa Rao Gurubeli, Architect at Harness, suggests motivating technical engineers not to move to managerial posts.


The challenging part we faced was 'quality of the product' and 'regressions.' We found out that the regression efforts were getting wasted. These were the challenges that had impacted us, and the outcome of this later, we applied it across the product, and customers liked it. The company got convinced that we did our kind of product architecture job well. Every company should have this role, a person who can work closely with engineering and products.

Recently we have had some engineering challenges. For example, I started as a founding engineer then I was a complete engineer. As the company grew in shape and size, challenges also started surfacing. Also, with my new role as a lead, I also started facing a different set of challenges. When we started, the founding engineers wanted to grow with the product path.

To begin with, when I was hired, I was the 6th engineer in the company. Then we had the CEO, 3 back-end developers, 2 front-end developers, and so on. So, when we were 5, everyone was coding as well as taking other responsibilities. After we became a team of 10, the founding engineers went from technical to leading the team. The conditions were: out of 10, 1 person has to become the engineering lead, only then they would be identified. After that, we again hired 10 more engineers so that someone would become the engineering manager among them.

Actions taken

We discovered who could assist us with the product, and the answer was the PMs. Even now, if I tell my CEO that I have an excellent technical engineer, he would not believe me. They feel it is hard to convince the engineers to become principal engineers and architects because they think the management part is lucrative in start-ups. To break it down, lucrative in a sense that you can grow and make many people work under you; such tendencies like that are not a good sign. In that approach, we would lose a lot of people who are technically sound and become engineering managers and directors.

We needed product people who did not have any idea about the product itself. So that they utilized their ideas since they did not know about the history of it, the customers who created enhancement requests, or anything related. There would be no one to tell them whether it was right or wrong. We were only making features after features which were not adequately pathed. At one point, we could not sustain ourselves anymore.

When we hire a new person in the team, he always has in mind that the existing company is running successfully. That person might not be willing to add his ideas as it could make business decisions complicated. I encouraged these strong people to be product architects, rather than encouraging them to become managers and directors. We needed more people who could create and design, not just manage.

Many people think it is taken to a more significant path when the start-up grows. The mindset is all in the innovative growth. Unfortunately, the change is in the land of management rather than in a technical way. The problem with this is that the person who develops himself as a contest is creating distance and getting far away from the technicalities. He is the one who is going to decide.

Lessons learned

  • Never be afraid to hire people from outside. They bring in fresh ideas, new mindsets and energy that could be beneficial for innovation and cultural change. Moreover, in our case, we had a new product, and our existing engineers were promoted to become managers and directors. It helped a lot to hire from outside.
  • You can hire outstanding directors from outside, but not a technical guide. Even if someone is technically strong, he will not know the correct content of the current product. I told my team recently; we should change and start giving more advantage to the technical teams and motivate the people to be more part of the technical side. I think this is the common strategy of startups.

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